A Minnesota family court judge often makes decisions on behalf of parents who have filed for divorce. A judge may use discretion in conjunction with state guidelines regarding issues that are relevant to a particular couple’s children. The court always has the children’s best interests in mind when making child custody decisions. These determinations are unique in every case.
A child custody agreement that works well for one set of parents may not be feasible or relevant to another. Each family, and more specifically, each child has needs that must be met to provide a supportive and loving environment following a divorce. While each family’s child custody plan can be customized to fit its needs, there are basic factors that typically help a judge decide custody-related issues.
The court considers the best interests of each child
Perhaps a family includes several children varying in age from toddler to teenage years. The following list provides a basic overview of factors that help determine an individual child’s best interests regarding custody or visitation:
- Age and maturity level of child
- Whether there are special needs
- Relationship with each parent during marriage
- Religious or cultural issues
- Each parent’s mental and physical health
- Each parent’s income
- Residence/location of each parent in connection with child’s school
- Sibling relationships
- Each parent’s fitness for custody
A family court judge is not likely going to award child custody to a parent who has a substance abuse addiction or who engaged in domestic violence in the past. It is possible that one child could wind up living with one parent while another is placed in the custody of the other parent, although the court typically believes that siblings fare better in a divorce when they stay together.
A judge can modify a child custody order
If a child’s needs change after a Minnesota judge issues a child custody order, a parent may request a modification of the order. It is best to discuss the issue with a family law attorney before filing a petition in court. Parents must continue to adhere to an existing order unless and until the court grants modification.